Charles FISHER (1817 - 1880)
Charles FISHER, aged 22, late of the Parish of West Ham in the County of Essex was convicted at the
Central Criminal Court in London better known as the Old Bailey on the 12th June 1837 for assaulting
Elizabeth Barlow. Charles was found guilty and was sentenced to be hanged. Fortunately for Charles his
sentence was later commuted to transportation for life.
The fact that Charles was sentenced to death and his sentence was later commuted to transportation for
life meant that a petition for clemency had been made. Prisoners or their relatives and friends could
petition the court for a reversal or reduction in sentence.
The main petition was submitted by Charles’s parents Charles and Sarah Fisher of Stratford in Essex
and at the time Charles Fisher senior was employed as a foreman at the wood yard at the West India
Charles’s parents paid a man named Coleman who frequented Newgate Prison three guineas to represent
their son, prepare a brief and to employ counsel to defend him. Coleman failed to provide counsel or
inform Charles’s parents of the trial date and the necessary witnesses did not attend court. The
Sheriff considering the seriousness of the charge paid Chadwick Jones to watch the case and cross
examine the victim. The conviction relied entirely upon the evidence of the prosecutrix who swore that
the prisoner and his cousin Richard Fisher were the persons who committed the offence.
Charles’s parents conceded their son was at Mr Fox’s Beer Shop with his cousin earlier in the
evening and maintained Charles was at home with them and his sister Mary Ann when the attack occurred and
therefore a clear case of an alibi might have been established at the trial had the witnesses been
notified to attend the trial. This petition was successful and on the 3 August 1837 the sentence of death
was commuted to transportation for life. The following month Charles was sent to the York prison hulk
anchored at Gosport, southwest of Portsmouth Harbour to await transportation.
Richard Fisher aged 20, was later apprehended at Woolwich and faced trial on charges of aiding and
abetting his cousin Charles in the assault on Elizabeth Barlow. Mr Payne represented Richard and called
several witnesses who lodged in the same house as Barlow who testified the woman was of loose character
and would regularly stay out all night drinking and return drunk. After the magistrate summed up the
evidence the jury deliberated for about an hour before acquitting Richard of all charges.
Description of Charles Fisher
Charles attended the parish school at West Ham and after he left school he delivered medicines for Wm.
Maiden a surgeon of Stratford. Mr Maiden and several other residents of Stratford signed a petition
testifying to Charles good character and related the fact of Charles’s cousin Richard
Charles’s parents continued to protest their son’s innocence and on the 9 December 1837 his
father along with several work mates and friends endorsed another petition.
The petition stated Charles had been employed for seven years in the West India Dock where he bore an
excellent character and requested the case be re-examined and delay the transportation of Charles until a
full investigation be made. Despite Charles’s parents efforts they were unable to erase the stain
against their son’s name.
In April the following year, 120 prisoners from the York hulk including Charles and 200 prisoners from
the Leviathan hulk were received onboard the prison transport Lord William Bentinck at Spithead
for the passage to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL). On the 14 April 1838 Captain Stockley gave the
order to weigh anchor and the floating prison departed from Portsmouth Harbour. Several prisoners were
treated for ailments during the voyage and three prisoners died. Towards the end of the journey on the
2nd August the surgeon John Rankine treated Charles for a cyst on his tonsils and he was confined to his
sick bed for two days. Prior to disembarking the convicts were examined and a detailed physical
description including any birthmarks, scars and tattoos were recorded. These records were used by the
authorities to help identify escaped prisoners.
|| Labourer, under Gardener
|| 5’ 6½
|| Do (small)
|| Do (small)
|| Turn left eye, scar left temple
|West Ham Essex
After Charles arrived in VDL he was assigned to Mr W. Kermode of Salt Pan Plains and due to his excellent
conduct he received a ticket of leave on 16 Dec 1845.
By 1846 Charles had learnt a trade and became the blacksmith at Ross, providing a valuable service to the
A request for permission to marry between Charles Fisher and Emily Lock was sent to the secretary on the
20th July 1846. Permission was soon granted and Charles and his young bride were married on 7th Sep 1846
at St John’s Anglican Church in Ross. The ceremony was witnessed by Emily’s sister Mary and
Two years later a request for a pardon was made and the application stated Charles had received his
ticket of leave for good conduct and he had been in the same service since he arrived in the colony
8½ years ago. On the 9 January 1849 Charles was granted a conditional pardon. A conditional pardon
required Charles to remain in the Australian colonies or New Zealand and didn’t allow him to return
to the country of his birth (England).
For a number of years Charles rented a cottage and shop on two acres of land in Church Street Ross from
Edward Johnstone Manley of Hobart.
Emily bore Charles nine children, six sons and three daughters but three of their children died in
infancy. Several of the children were given the middle name of Pearce which I believe to be
Charles’s mother’s maiden surname. Six months after the death of her infant son Emily died
from consumption on 10th August 1863.
Eighteen months later Charles married Mary Ann Davidson the widow of James Davidson. Mary Ann brought
three sons to the family and went on to have another seven children, four sons and three daughters. Their
second child Amy Hannah was my great grandmother.
Charles lived the remainder of his life at Ross where he died from Dropsy on 30th Jan 1880.
Charles’s son Percy took over the role as the town’s blacksmith. Mary Ann died at Oatlands on
25th Sep 1904 and was buried with Charles at Ross.
A family bible kept by descendants of Charles Fisher contains a family register which records
Charles’ was born on 3rd May 1817 although the baptism register gives a different date of birth.
Charles along with his two younger sisters were baptised at All Saints Church in West Ham on 10th Feb
1822 and Charles’s birth date was recorded as 6th May 1816.
TNA, HO 17, Home Office, criminal petitions series 1 1819-1858
TNA, HO 19, Home Office, registers of criminal petitions 1797-1853
The Times, 17 Aug 1837, p6
Charles, Campbell, The Intolerable Hulks 1776-1857, p191
AJCP 3201, surgeon’s journal
Convict Pardon, HO 10/59
Assignment lists, HO 10/51
TAHO, description CON18-1-14, p341
TAHO, Con 52/1/2 p63, application for permission to marry
Launceston Examiner, 13 Aug 1863, p4
Marriage, reg.no.506 RGD37
LDS, film 380133, All Saints parish register, West Ham, Essex